Trinity Covid-19 Update

June 22, 2020

Dear Trinity Congregation,

I want to make you aware of Trinity’s tentative plan to begin onsite worship on August 9, 2020. We intend to have one worship at 9:00 am and will continue to provide all online options provided today. We have been learning to live with this virus while reducing risks for the sake of our neighbors. We are called to love and worship God as we have been doing online and through our lives in our many callings. We are also called to love our neighbors. Our plans for worship are driven by that love.

Over the past several weeks, Pastor, staff and I have been referencing many documents and points of view outlining criteria to begin worship in a closed space. There are as many opinions as there are experts to give them. The one constant is we have to adhere to the St Louis County guidelines for Businesses and Faith Based Communities Restricted by Capacity Limitations. This tells us how many people we can have in the Worship Center at one time. With safe distancing and other protective measures, Trinity can worship 100 people plus the Worship Team in our Worship Center. This will require a reorganization of the seating as well as significant signage with instructions and labeling of the safe distancing spaces. Also, procedures and resources needed to clean after every worship will need to be identified and planned as well as ushers and assistants in Worship. There are many logistical challenges that will need to be patiently worked through to make Worship safe and meaningful.

We believe August 9th is a reasonable date to be prepared. It also allows time to see how the virus hospitalization rates progress. One concern is we open too soon and then face a mandated closure because of a second wave of the virus, a wave that would put significant stress on medical resources and push the County to again implement restrictive measures to manage the impact of increased hospitalizations. We understand that some churches are doing limited openings sooner. We believe that our plan matches our Theology, congregation demographics, available resources and congregation size while still caring for our neighbors with love.

Worship will be different. This is the most challenging aspect of beginning indoor worship again. It will be a more contemplative style of worship. At this moment, medical science calls us to exercise certain limits to protect each other from this aerosol transmitted disease. Meeting in a closed space carries the highest risk of infection. We can look at these limits in a negative way or we can see them as a way to protect all and as an opportunity for creativity. Respecting the limits necessary for a wholesome life is a central theme of our Judeo-Christian Scripture.

The familiar aspects of gathering in this time will continue - safe distancing, no handshakes or embracing, the use of face coverings and a reminder that if you are sick or in a high risk group to please stay at home and utilize the online options for worship. This virus is transmitted as an aerosol. It is imperative to keep exposure to a minimum. The worship service will be shorter. There are recommendations to ensure proper ventilation in the worship space. We have confirmed with our HAVAC contractor that there are 4-6 air changes in the Worship Center per hour while the system fans run. This is well within recommended limits. Out of care and love for our neighbor and based on recommendations by many different church organizations and epidemiologists, we will wear face masks, we will not sing as a congregation and we will not speak responsively as a congregation. Singing, speaking responsively and the playing of musical wind instruments are viewed as activities defined as super spreaders of the virus. Holy Communion will be celebrated – the only change, in an effort to help maintain safe distancing, is that Holy Communion and Sending will be combined. You will leave the Worship Center after receiving communion. We know this is difficult and not our norm for worship, especially as Lutherans, but we believe it is Worship that represents our calling to love thy neighbor and care for others out of love.

Since we will have a need to express our faith through singing, we have developed an additional activity to allow for sharing faith with music. On the evenings of July 12th and August 16th at 6 pm we will have an outdoor Hymn Sing for 30 minutes and a fellowship time, including an ice cream truck on July 12th. We expect these to continue each month as weather permits. Of course, the expectations of safe distancing will continue, but we believe this will be a wonderful opportunity to gather and begin fellowship again.

We as the leadership and staff of Trinity recognize this is not ideal. However, we believe that we have faithfully and diligently investigated and prayerfully discerned what is the safest, most respectful, and caring way to proceed while still providing the elements of meaningful worship. Please reach out to the office, Pastor, or me if you have questions. There have been a significant amount of documentation and videos reviewed to come up with this plan. I will gladly provide the key resources to anyone who would like to review them.

Again, we are learning to live with this virus while reducing the risks for the sake of our neighbors, living out our vision You Matter to God, You Matter to Us. May you all remain healthy.

Peace and grace to you,

Mike Sharitz

Trinity Lutheran Church Congregation President

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